Wine & Travel – Day 3 of the Washington / Oregon trip

04202007.jpgWe left Walla Walla bright and early on Wednesday to head west to Portland. We drove the freeway along the Columbia River, which was spectacular. It was one of the most beautiful drives I’ve ever done. If you’re on a wine tour of your own, I can’t recommend it highly enough. I’ll be posting a schwack of photos from our trip to my Flickr account, so when I do, I’ll post a link.

Portland’s a city I’ve driven through a few times, but have never stopped to explore. Seriously folks… it’s a place I could live. It’s a beautiful smaller city that has great buildings, wine, beer, food and people. There’s a cool vibe going on there that just felt like home.

04202007b.jpgWe stayed at the Ace Hotel, which was just what we needed. They had recently opened and there were still a few kinks to iron out (the faucets in the sink of our room were almost impossible to stop from dripping), but the artsy little touches were cool and the place just screamed “HIP!”. Vancouver really needs a hotel like it.

It was also really centrally located. It’s right on the edge of the downtown area and one block away from the newly trendy Pearl District. We walked everywhere from here.

Besides being a wine geek, I’ve also been a long time beer lover… there are plenty o’ times that a good microbrew makes me just as happy as a great glass of wine. Portland made me pretty bloody happy with its great selection of brewpubs as well. Graham regularly hits up the Rogue Brewing brewpub when he heads down this way, so I thought I’d do the same. Rachel and I had a tasting flight each (4 smaller glasses) and the standout was their Imperial India Pale Ale. They pretty much hit the nail on the head when they say, ” Above and beyond an India Pale Ale–I2PA is radically hopped with an intense aroma and hop bitterness. Unfiltered and aged for 9 months before it leaves the brewery–not for the faint of heart.” Fantastic beer.

One thing we were desperate to find in Portland was a good place to grab a nice dinner. Walla Walla had a few spots that looked promising, but they were either closed on the days we were there, or they had stopped serving at an unusually early hour. We just needed something good to eat and a bottle of wine that would make it all come together.

We finally found that at Park Kitchen. Wow… this place was great. We both had amazing meals and a great bottle of wine to round it out… (a 2004 Anam Cara Cellars, Nicholas Estate Pinot Noir), which was very light in colour, but had intense red fruit on the nose. It was earthy and spicy with rhubarb, ripe cherry and pepper on the long sexy finish – 4 stars. Finally we were having the food and wine experience we had been looking for… and loving it.

We had actually ordered another bottle that had us both excited – a 2004 EIEIO Pinot Noir, but our server, Kevin (a great guy to ask about Portland’s food scene and Oregon wines) told us one of the employees had drunk it the night before (damn them – but a mental note was made that we had to find the wine on our trip) and recommended the Anam Cellars. All in all, if you’re in Portland and are a bit of wine and food geek, search this place out. The meal was gorgeous – from the starters through to the dessert. This place gets 4.5 stars.

04202007a.jpgWhile wandering around, we stumbled on Nirvana. I had a mind-melting why-do-I-live-in-Canada moment when we wandered into Vinopolis, Oregon’s largest wine store. It was just around the corner from the Ace… and holy crap, what a store. I’ve worked in a couple of Vancouver’s better wine shops, but this was three to four times the size of those, with a selection that almost made us cry… thousands of bottles. It was immense and wonderful. I wanted to grab a sleeping bag and move in – “Don’t mind me. I’m just tasting Sauternes this week.” Jesus. It was so good. If you’re a wine geek and travelling through Portland, I’d suggest you go in and look around. I’ll slap a rating on it as a wine shop – easily 4.5 stars.

I’ll be back to Portland again sometime soon. I really liked it and the time we spent there whetted my appetite to get out and explore it a bit more.

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